Bucking the trend of boring NFL trade deadline days, some new young general managers made like they were running baseball teams on Tuesday. Five trades were announced, with NFL fantasy relevant names among those changing teams. Here is how you can expect the moves to impact NFL fantasy play.
#1. LT Duane Brown to Seahawks
Days after ending his holdout, Duane Brown was moved to Seattle to take over at left tackle. It is unfortunate the Seahawks couldn’t find four more linemen to trade for, but Brown is a big addition and will make the guys around him better. It certainly should save Russell Wilson from a few hits the rest of the season. It is doubtful that the Seahawks’ running game will suddenly become viable, although running behind Brown is an upgrade.
Any impact on Wilson’s game will be largely mental. The running game remains doomed to fantasy irrelevance due to their committee approach.
#2. Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco
The 49ers used a second-round draft choice to pry Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. Besides confirming their intentions to let Tom Brady try to play another five years, there is little impact on the Patriots’ side of this deal.
San Francisco was supposed to be the front-runner for Kirk Cousins’ services this offseason. By acquiring Garoppolo now, they can trot him onto the field for a few games to see what he offers instead of emptying the coffers for Cousins. If Garoppolo looks like the real deal, the team can lock him up with a long-term contract in the offseason. The 49ers have plenty of cap space, so they can also let him play a year under the franchise tag if they are unsure of his long-term promise. If Garoppolo looks awful in his audition, the 49ers can still sign Cousins or use what will probably be a top-three draft pick on a passer.
Cousins supposedly had his heart set on playing in San Francisco or Los Angeles with the Rams next season. Jared Goff’s development makes the Rams unlikely suitors and if San Francisco thinks Garoppolo is their answer, Cousins will have to look elsewhere for a new home. But don’t feel too bad. He will still get a boatload of money from one of 5-6 quarterback-needy teams.
#3: Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia
Lots of folks are very excited about Jay Ajayi running behind a better offensive line in Philadelphia this season. A couple of things temper my enthusiasm. First, Philly immediately announced LeGarrette Blount is still their starting halfback. Second, the knock Miami coach Adam Gase had on Ajayi was that he did not like to study the playbook outside of team meetings and was not running where plays were designed for him to go. What if Ajayi can’t learn the Eagles’ run plays enough to contribute? Doug Pederson has much better options than Adam Gase had if Ajayi comes across as lazy or not buying into the program.
Blount’s touches could be impacted, but Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement look like the odd men out in the Philly rotation. The Eagles specifically mentioned the need for a capable pass blocker on third downs when they spoke of why Ajayi made sense for their offense.
In Miami, Kenyan Drake will get a shot at the lead running back role. He has also had difficulty grasping the Miami playbook and only averages 3.3 yards-per-carry in limited opportunities so far. Damien Williams will expand his role as a third-down and receiving back. If you must pick one up, I would bet that Williams has more of a fantasy impact. But I am not counting on either to give us too much.
Jay Cutler and the Dolphins receivers could all see a slight bump as the Dolphins go heavier with the pass.
#4. CB Rashard Robinson to NY Jets
Robinson has been struggling mightily in San Francisco’s defense. He will get a new chance to salvage his season as the third corner for the Jets, but there will be no NFL fantasy impact.
#5. Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo
In another surprising trade, the Carolina Panthers shipped Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills. His role in Buffalo will be similar to his role in Carolina. It will be interesting to see if Buffalo’s offense shifts gears to make better use of their wide receivers. So far in 2017, LeSean McCoy and the tight ends have seen the bulk of passing targets.
The Bills suddenly have a receiving corps. Jordan Matthews is a quality possession receiver in the slot. Deonte Thompson and Andre Holmes offer veteran depth to supplement Benjamin’s presence. Brandon Tate will go back to his receiving duties. It looks like Zay Jones’ may have wasted his chance to become part of the Bills attack. Tyrod Taylor has never had so many viable options downfield. With LeSean McCoy running the ball, the Bills’ offense could really take off.
Taylor was already a good NFL fantasy play for the second half based on matchups. With his new weapons, he is a must start the rest of the season. Benjamin will take away some of Matthews’ and Nick O’Leary’s targets, but O’Leary is still a good-floor tight end. Benjamin’s value might rise as his red zone targets were dwindling in Carolina. He is likely to be Taylor’s first option in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, in Carolina, Cam Newton lost a valuable big target. The team now lists Russell Shepard as the starting wide receiver opposite Devin Funchess, but rookie Curtis Samuel will have to up his game, too. Christian McCaffrey could line up as a wide receiver sometimes, too.
The big winner in Carolina is Funchess. When Benjamin missed a game earlier this year, Funchess saw 10 targets. That could be the plan moving forward for Newton, with veteran tight end Ed Dickson also resurfacing as a fantasy threat.
Throw in the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, possible quarterback changes coming in Denver, Minnesota, and San Francisco, and the emergence of Alex Collins and you have a whole lot of NFL fantasy bedlam for a mid-season week. Be sure to check back here at RealSport for all the latest news and advice on how to handle it all.
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